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Pushing your vehicle to the limit.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 15:02
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Pushing your vehicle to the limit.

If you have to leave your home during an emergency and you are leaving in a hurry, you may be pushing your escape vehicle to its limits or beyond. And there is a price to pay: your vehicle could break down on you and leave you stuck right were you’re at.

Here is an example: I was coming home on the freeway and saw a ½ ton pick-up towing a tandem axle trailer over loaded with pallets and the bed of the truck was over loaded with pallets as well, the truck broke down on the side of the road with a broken axle, the axle shaft and housing were broken, the rear wheel was tilted up, that truck was going nowhere, it was a catastrophic failure. Lesson here:  know what limits your vehicle can tow and haul (read the owner’s manual).

Ambient Temperature is another consideration, as I write this article soon where I live it will be normally 100 degrees outside (and it will get hotter 110+ is not uncommon during the summer). This will affect the running of your vehicle (overheating). If you are leaving during the heat of the day, and not moving very fast (Stuck in Traffic, Forest Roads, Trails, make your own trail) the lack of air flow will affect how well your radiator cools your engine (2 times a year I clean out the fins/coils on the radiators, ac condensers, oil coolers, etc., on all our vehicles).

So when you load down your vehicle (with everything you can) trying to escape you are going to cause it to run hotter and you may experience a major breakdown from a number of components: suspension, drivetrain, engine, frame, body, etc. Most vehicles can tow more than they can haul, perhaps a small trailer to put your possessions in would be a great help but it will still cause a load condition on your vehicle.

So what can you do to help reduce a breakdown when you need your escape vehicle the most?

  • First load your vehicle within reasonable limits according to the owner’s manual.
  • Use a trailer, this will save your suspension and drivetrain some grief but you can still over-heat, also most vehicles require that when towing not to use overdrive (check your owner’s manual).
  • Try to find ways to reduce the heat load for your cooling system:
    • Larger Radiator
    • Additional cooling fans,  higher output fans, heaver duty fan clutch, (if a manual fan is used) fan shroud is present (if a manual fan is used).
    • Additional transmission cooler
    • Additional engine oil cooler
    • Cleaning of the fins/coils at least yearly on the: radiator, ac condenser, etc.
    • Replace all the belts and hoses every 2 years
    • Flush and replace engine coolant as specified by the owner’s manual with the correct coolant.
    • Proper temperature thermostat.
  • Perform all the maintenance to your vehicle in accordance to the owner’s manual
  • Get the battery ( have an off road capable battery) and charging system tested once a year and if possible the starter too.
  • Use a good quality fuel, don’t use the cheap stuff, use 89 or 91 octane gasoline and if it is a diesel use a good quality diesel fuel.
    • Some vehicles require higher octane gasoline when towing (again see your owner’s manual) I know I’m sounding like a broken record but that manual is the best resource for information on your vehicle and if you don’t have an owner’s, you can download most in PDF form to your computer and print it out, also having that reference can help you not get ripped off from some unscrupulous mechanic/shop, if your manual does not call out a procedure (fuel injection service or transmission flush) don’t get it done.
  • Towing capacity is reduced when the towing vehicle is loaded down for example: Max towing capacity is 7700lbs empty, and you have put 3000lbs in your vehicle (people and stuff) well now you can tow 4700lbs max.
  • Make sure your tires and brakes are in good order

So don’t get stuck because of a catastrophic breakdown while trying to “get out”. Get to know your vehicle and it’s limits.


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